I set out to make a classic itinerary and not too original, but enough to capture the essence of this authentic land. We would tour the Rajasthan region in Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, a city in the Thar desert, almost bordering Pakistan. In Rajasthan we can find the Thar desert, the Aravali mountains which, with Mount Abu, are some of the oldest in the world, and the tiger reserves of Ranthambore and Sariska.

Day 1 - Mandawa

The day is long and hard, but we got up at 5.30 in the morning with the same enthusiasm as in our first trip to Rajasthan. By taxi we arrive at the train station. We reach the airport by the metro, and at 10.30 we check-in the bags. After passing a couple of strict controls, we reach the waiting room until at noon, we boarded the Air India flight to Delhi.

The flight to Delhi took place without incident. The only but I can put is that the information that the airport screens provided on the boarding gate was wrong, or was changed at the last moment. It made us live some anxious moments, even though we had something more than an hour to make the change.

In the end, after running through the corridors of the airport, we reached the right door with more than enough time. The flight is comfortable (as comfortable as the economy class can be) with decent food, good entertainment and a diligent crew. In just over an hour (by train it's about 15 hours) we landed at the airport in this city in the state of Delhi.

We pass the controls and pick up the bags heading for the exit. Here the hotel had sent a taxi with where we will stay at our first destination. The problem was that, when we left the airport, there was nobody waiting for us. It was 2 in the afternoon, and we asked for the cost of a taxi. While we were hesitant about what to do, our taxi driver appeared, apologizing for the delay.

We went walking to pick up the car in the parking. After the moment of uncertainty, we settled in the taxi that began its 300 km journey, in the middle of the chaos typical of the big cities. What was a novelty for us, was the presence of numerous cows that ran at ease, not only in the city, but also the highway. They made the driving an obstacle course. This becomes especially dangerous at night, on roads with little or no light.

Out of urban areas and as the night starts it was what I would call the kamikaze race to get to Mandawa. There were a few tense moments, especially one in which there was a competition between a bus and several cars. So with our particular guardian angel in a state of maximum alert, we arrive without incident, but with the feeling that we were unharmed by miracle.

On the way and seeing that it was getting late, we asked the driver to stop us somewhere for dinner. He took us to a restaurant where they were waiting for us since he had called but we did not like the place. We wanted something quick because it was late and we continued until another one where we had dinner and continued.

We arrived almost at 11 at night to Mandawa to go direct to the haveli where we did the check-in, showered and go to bed. I finally sleep, surrendered, after a day of travel.

Day 2 - Bikaner

In the morning we have breakfast and go out to explore the city on foot, famous for its havelis although most are poorly maintained or in ruins. The havelis are merchants' houses that flourished thanks to the trade route from China built by the Marwari merchants in the Shekhawati region, north of Rajasthan.

When we left the haveli there was our driver, a hotel service boy and some countrymen offering us to become a guide to tour the city, which we declined politely. When we had been walking for a while, one of those who were outside the haveli came back to tell us that he is a guide and that we have to go with him to get to know the city well. We ignore and continue.

After a while another guide approached us asking about me. He told us he was a guide and it was better that we visit the city with a guide and that he would not charge us anything. We pass him and continue. We went through several havelis and in front of the fort that we did not enter so we did not delay in going towards Bikaner, a walled city, located in the middle of the Thar desert.

We saw some structures that later I found out they were stepwells and we entertained taking pictures of several children. We bought fruit in some stalls near the haveli and water. We stopped in Fatehpur where there are more than 300 havelis. We visit one of them to see its interior, and although it is not restored, its paintings and the work of the wood of its doors, allow to imagine the past splendor.

We continue the route to Bikaner passing small towns until we stop at the Vaishno Devi Temple at whose entrance is the head of a lion with an open mouth through which we pass into the interior. About 8 km before arriving to Bikaner, we stop to visit the Chhatris in Devi Kund Sagar. This is the real crematorium of the Bikaji dynasty, and each one occupies the exact place where it was incinerated.

We continue our trip to Bikaner where we enter the Junagarh Fort (before it was called Chintamani) built in the 16th century by Raja Rai Singh, Akbar's army general. It is one of the few forts that is not built on top of a hill and which has the particularity of not having been conquered. The main door is the Suraj Pol.

In the interior we find numerous palaces of red sandstone and marble, rooms with delicate paintings, ceilings with mirrors and ivory prints, and courtyards with marble ponds. The Chandra Mahal, Phool Mahal, Durbar Room, Badal Mahal, Diwan-i-Khas, Gag Mandir, are some of them.

In the area dedicated to the Museum we can see various types of firearms, shields, swords, furniture, and a biplane of the World War I. In the old city we visited in rickshaw, doing some stretches on foot. The most interesting or striking was without a doubt two of the havelis that hide their narrow streets.

The most famous group is Rampuria, built by Balujee Chalva under the instructions of the Rampuria family. The oldest one is 400 years old, but the great majority does not exceed 100 years. The magnificent work of carved from the red sandstone in which they are built is surprising. Peacocks, elephants, flowers, geometric drawings and innumerable figures, adorn the façade of this group of havelis.

Another interesting group is the havelis of Daga Chowk. After lunch, we continue to Deshnok to visit one of the most amazing temples I have ever seen, not because of its architecture or history but for its deities. It is the rats.

In the Karni Mata temple rats are worshiped. In total there are about 25,000 black rats and a handful of white rats, at present, the latter being the most fervent among devotees. They are everywhere but what catches the most attention is to see how people kiss the floor, wash their heads with their water or even drink it and eat their nibbled food.

The commotion came when a white rat appeared and people rush to take group photos and selfies, pushing and touching to approach, throwing food to see if they eat it, wait for one to pass them over and all this to have good luck. We tried a sugarcane juice and bought a souvenir to continue our trip to the hotel where a sandstorm arises. It seems that we are in a veil of almost total darkness and we barely see a few meters ahead.

Bikaner was founded by Rao Bika and that was important step in the routes of the caravans. Years later it was governed by the Mughals until the 19th century.

We agreed to have dinner at the hotel because of the storm but since it took us an hour to prepare it we went for a walk in which the thing calms down. We enjoy a walk in which we found a market that we enter as it is away from the traffic hustle. We get back to the hotel with a bag of spices.

Day 3 - Jaisalmer

After breakfast we left Bikaner on the way to Jaisalmer. In the morning we left for Pokhran Fort between Bikaner and Jaisalmer. The fort is small and has some beautiful paintings and gardens. Inside there is a hotel with very good looks. About 50 km away is the Temple of Shri Kolayat. It is dedicated to Kapil Muni whose body is believed to have been thrown under a fig tree.

The huge artificial lake, which does not dry never is covered by an infinity of lotus flowers, and has 32 ghats. Once a year, in the month of Kartik (October-November), thousands of devotees gather to take a holy bath. When we were in it was a haven of peace and tranquility. On the road we find enough pilgrims. At a fixed point they leave their shoes to walk barefoot the last 25 km that separate them from the Ramdevra Temple.

The small town of Ramdevra owes its fame to Saint Baba Ramdev, a Sufi saint. Arriving in Jaisalmer we passed several security controls. We see barracks and quite a lot of military presence. We stop to eat some onion kachori that are quite good. Upon arriving at the hotel, and after receiving our first namaste or greeting from a hotel employee, I give a good tip to the taxi driver who has brought us safe and sound.

The hotel is perfectly located. Our room, although a little small, is quite comfortable, with a mix between old and modern fittings. It does not have air conditioning, but fan, enough in this time. After sharing a masala chai, and to which I will become quite fond, we settle in the room.

We take a refreshing shower, and we go to dine at the restaurant located on the terrace of the building, with a beautiful view of the illuminated wall. We ordered a tandoori chicken, rice, several pieces of chapati, and a pancake of banana and honey, for dessert, all accompanied by beer. There is a cool breeze, and we have wifi to send some whatsapp messages, but we close our eyes.

At 9 o'clock at night we return to the hotel and we had a tea on the terrace before going to sleep, although our dream was interrupted by a group of tourists, who believed themselves to be in a nightclub. So I had to give them a tick, which fortunately worked.

Day 4 - Jaisalmer

We have slept 10 hours at a stretch. At 8:30 we have toast, scrambled eggs and tea on the terrace of the restaurant before launching to discover a city that is waking up. We went out to the street where we crossed narrow alleys full of garbage in which numerous animals roam freely from pigs, goats, chickens, and above all cows.

We stand in what looks like an sweetshop to try several sweets, some karanji with honey and nuts reminiscent of baklava, burfi and badam pak. Thus, almost without realizing it, we arrive at the doors of the so-called golden city, located on the crest of a sandy yellowish rock. It is crowned by a fort whose construction began in the 12th century, and which after several enlargements has 99 imposing bastions on a small hill.

Here we take an unofficial guide who talks about the grand Haveli of Jaisalmer and offers a guided tour throughout the morning. He begins to explain some details about the name of the city, although soon after he tells us that he has to go to cast his vote in a local election.

We are continue to be guided by a friend of his. We continue ascending through doors, all built in a curve, to avoid the onslaught of the elephants of the enemy army. Four doors, Akhaiya Pol, Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol and Hawa Pol, lead to the main square, where the Rajmahal palace is located, and to its right is the Maharani palace.

We move through alleys full of people. Here what impresses us most is the color of everything that surrounds us, especially the beautiful dresses worn by women. We see vegetable and fruit stands (although they are not as varied as in other countries), the stalls where they sell dyes, which pile in a pyramidal shape. The colors of the facades of the houses complement this spectacular chromatic crucible.

Some of the women also has henna tattoos on their hands and feet, with geometric or floral motifs. This chromatic beauty contrasts negatively with dirt and noise. We wander through the interior of a city, and we see that in many facades there are paintings in which Ganesha along with some inscriptions that we do not understand.

The guide clarifies that this is a perennial memory of a wedding, indicating the names of the couples, the caste to which they belong, and the date of the event. We penetrate ancient doors where hang five chilies, in some havelis, and old houses of merchants.

This city was in silk route that declined with the growing maritime trade and the development of the Bombay port. In construction of the havelis the merchants spared neither efforts nor money, converting them into authentic works of art. In the sandstone of the walls, the stonemasons left many details engraved. The balconies are spectacular for their meticulous work, as are the arches, the doors and some wall paintings.

Most of these prosperous merchants professed the Jain religion. The merchants also built wonderful temples, with a very elaborate sculptural decoration. We visited the Chandraprabhu Jain Temple and Shri Lodravapur Parshvnath Jain Shwetamber Tirth. It reminded me of Ankor Wat because of the number of motifs carved in the stone. We also find many representations of Mahavira sitting in the lotus position, and which closely resembles Buddha.

After leaving the walled enclosure, the guide takes us to Patwon Ki Haveli. Its large size, the carved stone filigree, the decorative richness, and its 60 lattice balconies make it an architectural marvel. We then head to Nathmal Ki Haveli, another interesting place. Two architect brothers took charge of its construction, which was commissioned on one side of the haveli, achieving a similarity between both, as well as a large number of differences.

Finding these differences becomes a challenge and an entertainment for tourists. We then head to Salim Singh Ki Haweli, and a couple of shops where he takes commission. We bought a quilt, although we will regret it right away, since we could have bought it at the end, and so we would not have to transport it during the entire trip. Then we continue to wander until we reach the Rani Ka Mahal but we did not enter and we continue walking around.

To end the morning we take a relaxing, cool and quiet boat ride by the Gadi Sagar Tank. This lake was built by Maharaja Maharwal Gadsi in 1400. More than a lake it is a deposit that collects rainwater to supply later the entire city. The entrance door, Tilon Ki Pol, apparently was built by a famous courtesan.

The story tells that the two pillars of the entrance remembered the legs of the courtesan. So it is open to the imagination what represented the door to the lake. The Maharaja tried to prevent the construction, but she added a small shrine dedicated to Krishna, which the Maharaja never dared to destroy. In its waters, fished swim happily.

After finishing the visit, we went to the terrace of the restaurant, looking for a good wifi to check the internet, and send whatsapp photos. We had a few beers and a thali with rice, dal, some curry, aloo dum, yogurt, salad and chapati. We return to the hotel to rest for a while. At about 5 o'clock in the afternoon we go in an autorickshaw, to the sunset point, a place about two kilometers away.

We pay to enter (later we observe that there are several points where you can pass for free). From where there is a good view of the city is surrounded by tourists. Once the sun set, we walked back to Jaisalmer, observing daily scenes, as well as a kind of election campaign, controlled by policemen who with sticks in hand, were very threatening.

I take a photo, and try to make a video, but I watch as a policeman comes to where I am. So I abort the maneuver, although then the policeman passed by without telling me anything. We return to the hotel, where we showered before going out to dinner at the famous restaurant (recommended in the Rajasthan travel guide. A young lawyer, guides us there.

We can see the golden fortress in all its splendor, illuminated from all sides by numerous spotlights. We took a thali, chicken curry, chapati, water and beer. In the street sounds of drums and deafening music call our attention. It is another of the numerous weddings that we find. The men dance to the sound of the music and the groom in a typical costume and his finery advances on the back of a white horse ornamented for the occasion.

Many women walk behind the farmhouse with costumes made with colored fabrics and silver and gold ornaments all enhancing the figure of the groom. Already dined and after returning to the hotel where we stayed we heard music, artificial fires and a ruckus. Being early we decided to find out where it came from as it would be impossible to sleep with such a noise.

It is not far behind the hotel where we see the one who gets married, at the entrance of what looks like the place of ceremony. It is a large building in which there is a special decoration for the wedding, a pink tent at the entrance with a red carpet on the floor and where we see all the previous troop dancing with the groom.

We stayed for a while and the family members start to take pictures with the groom and once they enter the building they ask us to take pictures with us, which we politely access. The men thank us with a handshake and the women with a thank you. Once the photos are finished, they invite us to see what is a ceremony that apparently lasts for hours since the bride and groom sit down as they wash their feet, throw rice at them, make offerings, take photos with them and with parents.

I must say that they are very hospitable because they insisted so much that we went up to eat something. We went up and saw that they had catering with well-trained waiters who distribute food. The groom's uncle, who was the one who guided us around the buffet, told us that it was a wedding of a high merchant caste.

We are in a roof where the tables near the cornices extend the buffet. The central area is not covered leaving a courtyard in sight where we observe all the decoration and women's fabrics. After trying several things and greatly appreciate such an experience we retired, not without wishing the couple and the family much happiness. We returned walking to the hotel.

Trip to Jaisalmer and the Thar Desert images

Day 5 - Thar Desert

Today we want to wander around on our own, and we have almost decided to go visit in the Thar Desert, to take a camel ride and see the sunset from its dunes. We did not wake up too early, and had breakfast quietly. I eat the aloo paratha, which is much cheaper than the typical continental breakfast for tourists.

At 9 o'clock we arrive at the fort entrance, and we go through part of what we did not see yesterday. In the narrow streets, vendors of chai and fried peanuts coexist with monkeys, cows and dogs. We see hotels and guesthouses, with private homes and local clothing and souvenirs, whose owners insistently trumpet the quality and low price of their products.

We see the figure of some god, a devotee who prays, and another who offers some rose petals. Women chat and cook. Tourists take pictures and children play ball, all in alleys one meter wide. I have to look up a lot to find the sky among so many balconies and windows. It is enough to lose completely in a labyrinth of streets with bazaars and havelis. The Hindu and Jain temples are in every alley we take.

After receiving so many stimuli, we rest in the restaurant of a hotel, where we chat with a couple on honeymoon, and exchange opinions and advice. At noon we went to collect the quilt, which was missing an opening, and put some buttons. After leaving the bedspread at the hotel, we take a rickshaw and go to the agency, where we have to negotiate hard for the visit to the desert.

We decided to return to the hotel since the time of our excursion to the desert is approaching, stopping at a nearby market to buy fruits. We took it to the room and we put it as close to the air conditioner to cool it down. We rested for a while and got off to be picked up by our driver and headed to Sam Sand Dunes. We board in a ramshackle Jeep, in which also travel a couple of Norwegians and Koreans.

From the busy streets of Jaisalmer, we pass through an arid landscape, crossing a lonely road full of sand, scattered bushes and camels that cross in front of us. In the distance, windmills can be seen, which sadly confirms us, that progress has reached all corners of the earth.

The vehicle parks next to some very modest houses, on the outside of which are some people and a dromedary with a single hump. We see that they are adjusting the saddles and the Norwegians and Koreans start to climb. I ask the driver of the jeep and he tells me that we have only hired a walk around the area and watch the sunset.

When he sees my anger, he calls by phone, and he confirms that we will also take the camel ride. So they prepare another animal and we climb them. Climbing the dromedary is not easy as it is always taller no matter if it seated or not. In my case the animal is very nervous, and throws quite disturbing grunts.

They have to hold it, so I can get up, and they tell me to hold on tight to the leather strips on the chair, which scares me even more. The animal first raise its front legs, leaving me in a fairly inclined plane and then raise the rear ones quite abruptly, which made me almost end up on the ground. Seeing my expression of fear, one of the boys tells me that it is a young, untrained animal.

Finally, in a quite rigid position, clinging to the chair as if my life depended on it, we began the journey accompanied by young people. On camels that are linked by ropes we enter the Thar desert. Luckily it is not too hot (they tell us that in summer temperatures of 50 degrees are reached) and slowly I relax, finally getting to enjoy a long walk of an hour and a half.

Explaining the immensity of the desert is not simple because the desert is everything. It is each of the cardinal points. It is the horizon and what is under our feet. It can also be the despair of being trapped in an ocean of sand that has no end, or it can be calm and tranquility based on its absolute silence. The shadow of the camel is getting longer and that gives us the hint that the sunset is nearing.

At the edge of the sunset we reach a dune, where there are several tents (the other couples will stay for the night here) and we watch the sunset drinking tea. We stopped a while to take pictures until the wind began to rise and clouds began to form before us that approached at high speed as if we were in the movie.

The sight is worth admiring, with the sunset on the one hand and a sandstorm on the other. I see the driver lying on the sand facing the storm, mostly calm. The driver decided that we had already been enough when he finished talking on the phone and we got out of there. We arrived just as the folk group began to play.

We sat in a kind of lounge chairs and they put some salted peanuts and they took note of the drinks (kingfisher of course). While we were enjoying the music with a dancer wearing the typical clothes of the area, we started to go inside to have dinner where they served us rice, dal, butter chicken, kair sangri sabzi and a kind of rice with milk. After dinner we warmed up around the bonfire between chats and songs.

We know nothing of the desert, of the night, or of the day. We cannot orient ourselves, we cannot walk in the sand, we cannot recover after so many hours on camels. But there we are, fascinated with that infinity of stars that we see with only a slight rise of the head. Just thinking about the history of the sand that slips between our fingers gives us goosebumps.

Before going to sleep, we ask for a taxi for the next day early, because we have to catch a train at 6 in the morning. And, as in most adventure films, the romantic part comes. Snuggled up in our beds, with the fire going out, in absolute silence, an impressive blanket of stars spread over our heads. We were lucky that these dates coincided with a shower of stars, so we could ask for more than one wish!

And without being able to separate our sight of the sky we went falling asleep on the sand covered with blankets and shooting stars. Throughout the night we woke up to go back to sleep looking at that unpolluted and silent sky. We need to corroborate that we were indeed there, in the middle of those dunes, somewhere in the desert.

Trip to Jaisalmer and the Thar Desert images

Day 6 - Jodhpur

It's still dark when one of the employees has to wake up the driver who sleeps in a nearby tent. Our driver insists that we wait a bit as he wants to show us something. We wait for a man from the village who delivers opium and sugar, take it and then in the car show us a piece and tell us it was good for the stomach. The driver offers us and along the way explains that in the region fathers dissolve opium in milk so that their children sleep well in the night and and they can work all day.

We return in the Jeep through a series of sand tracks, while crossing several fawns and a fox, until we take the paved road where there is enough traffic. It is still dark and the use of long and short lights, leaves much to be desired. The first rays of light arrives as the dawn was appearing there in front of us. We had no other stimulus than nature and its magnificent simplicity. The times in the desert are marked by the sun.

When we have a few kilometers to reach Jaisalmer, a police control keeps our driver for more than half an hour. In the end he returns laughing, telling us that he had been released without paying to the police, which he says is very usual to avoid problems. We reach the station. I give him a tip for making him get up so early, and he gives us a bottle of water. At the same time he tells us to go to the VIP waiting room, to protect ourselves from the intense cold of dawn in the desert.

We follow his advice, but when we go to the room, we see that it is full of people sleeping. So we go outside again, and we put on all the clothes we have (which is not much), especially when we are informed that the train will leave late. The people who have slept in the surroundings begin to get up, and they walk with thick blankets to protect themselves from the cold.

More travelers start arriving and I drink hot chai in a stall to warm up. A group of soldiers try to talk to me and I walk away with a smile. At 7.30 we went out in the sleeper class, with the tickets bought through internet. We settled in a bunk comfortably lying down, in a surprisingly empty train. We feel cold because the windows do not close well.

We eat some cookies and energetic breakfast bars, while we observe the landscape through the thick bars that protect the windows. Seated beside me is a fellow who lives in Jodhpur. As the Rajasthani tradition commands, his name is tattooed on his forearm. He is friendly, sarcastic and frank. We join over tobacco.

He saw me smoking sitting on the steps of the open door of the moving train car, and now he invites us to his corner at the beginning of the coach, the final point before the locomotive. We got together there. He opens the door for us.

The train makes innumerable stops, some of which are quite long, which allows us to see each of the stations, with a swarm of people. We see sellers of all kinds of food, travelers with huge bales under their backs, and women with children who do not know very well where they go. In one of them, I go down to buy some pakoras, freshly made.

A nice family that travels to our side offers us a cake, which I take with a smile and gratitude. The ticket checker throws several people out of our coach because they have a lower class ticket.

At 2 in the afternoon we arrived at Jodhpur station and quickly took a rickshaw that take us to our guesthouse, in the middle of a horrific traffic. The hotel is in the historic center, in a narrow alley that we must access on foot. The room is not bad, but the sheets have not changed. Soon the manager appear apologizing, and scold the employee.

We went up to the restaurant, a terrace with amazing views of the fort that dominates the city, and we had a beer, before going for a walk around. We are close to the Clock Tower and the so-called spice bazaar, where hundreds of stores offer spices and tea of ​​all kinds. A young merchant teaches us to differentiate pure saffron from the substitute, although his initial friendly tone decrease as he realized that we were not going to buy anything.

We wandered for a couple of hours there, perceiving the aroma of spices and the variegated panorama of the narrow alleys, until we decided to go to the hotel for an early dinner on the charming terrace. We enjoy the views of the illuminated fort away from the madding crowd. Here we meet a couple of young people, with whom we will talk for a long time before going to sleep, while the muezzin from a nearby mosque calls faithful Muslims to prayer.

Today Ramadan ends and they are having a party.

Day 7 - Jodhpur

We have rested quite well, and at 8 in the morning we have breakfast with coffee and toast on the terrace. Although there are hardly any people, the service is desperately slow. At 9 o'clock, we began the winding climb to the Mehrangarh fort, one of the largest in the country. Its construction began in the mid-fifteenth century by order of Maharaja Rao Jodha and is surrounded by imposing and thick walls.

As in almost all the monuments in India, in addition to the entry ticket, we have to pay for camera, although the normal thing is to use mobile cameras. It has 3 imposing entrance doors, each one dedicated to commemorate a victory. The Jaya Pol is on the armies of Jaipur and Bikaner, the Fateh Pol on the Mughals. The last door called Laha Pol has the traces of 15 hands as a souvenir of the sati of the widows of Maharaja Man Singh.

We reach Chokelao Bagh and take some pictures. Inside the museum is the most important collection of palanquins from all over Rajasthan. We also see the Moti Mahal, Sukh Mahal, and Phool Mahal exquisitely decorated with carved panels, barred windows and colored glass. We see inside elephant chairs, royal costumes, musical instruments, weapons, furniture, and a collection of cots are displayed in a beautiful room.

For almost three hours we tour the enclosure, with a free audio guide through huge doors protected by sharp irons, spacious patios and sumptuous rooms, full of miniatures, musical instruments, costumes and all kinds of furniture. In the last part of the fort there is a temple and just before there is a collection of cannons in which stands out a Chinese one that I think was a gift.

It also has an impressive view over the so-called blue city of Jodhpur named for the blue tone that many of their houses present. The color was adopted because it was said to scare away heat and mosquitoes. Currently the new buildings are still painted blue for tourist reasons. Jodhpur is the second city of Rajasthan and is located on the edge of the Thar Desert.

At the exit, we are approached by several rickshaw drivers offering their services. We agreed with one of them to take us to a nearby mausoleum and to the Royal Palace, located on the other side of the city. First we go to the Jaswant Thada, built by Sardar Singh in 1899 in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, considered the best ruler of Jodhpur.

It is built with finely carved and polished sheets of the same white marble of the Taj Mahal and is known as the Taj Mahal of Marwar. The marbles emit a warm light when the sun's rays alight on its surface. It's really beautiful. In the garden there are several cenotaphs and a monument to a peacock that flew on a funeral pyre.

We took some photos of Kirat Singh Soda's chhatri who was a soldier who died at the same point defending the fort. Then we moved to the Umaid Bhawan Palace, one of the largest private residences in the world, named after Maharaja Umaid Singh.

It has 347 rooms and is divided into three parts with the luxurious Taj Palace Hotel, the residence of the former royal family, and a museum about the history of it, which is what is open to the public. We also visited a gallery, which shows the cars belonging to the royal family. The visit as a whole is not bad, but it is dispensable, and I only recommend it if you have time to spare.

We return to the surroundings of the Ghanta Ghar and we pass to reserve a table at the nearby restaurant, with excellent reviews on the Lonely Planet. After crossing again several adjacent streets, we return immediately to the hotel looking for a safe haven. After resting a couple of hours in the room and preparing the bags, we go to the restaurant, where we have a splendid dinner on a terrace with views of the fort.

It consists of dal, curd, shahi paneer, salad, rice, gulab jamun, papad, and chapati. For accompaniment we ask for aloo pakora and beer. We return to the hotel at 10 o'clock at night, and something catches my attention. The streets are almost empty, and there are almost more cows than people transiting through them.

Bangladesh is also one of the least visited. The first to be surprised was the one who took our papers to process the visa in the Bangladesh High Commission of Calcutta. He says that for many months no tourists peeked by there.

Then, each of the passengers who saw us embark on the famous Maitree express that connects Dhaka and Kolkata looked at us surprised. A few asked us if we were really going as a tourist to Bangladesh or we had mistaken the platform. After crossing the Benapole border and 12 hours we arrived in Bangladesh very late at night. We arrive near the city and find a homestay. We find a pizzeria where we had dinner.


1 Day in Dhaka

Like every morning, we got up without an alarm clock. Like all the mornings of the trip, it took us ten seconds to realize where we were. Sometimes it costs more, sometimes less, but every morning we have to recognize in what country, in what city, in what house or hotel room we spend the night. The morning was better, perhaps because of the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen.

That morning I had the strange feeling that someone had left me a card with a slogan on the armchair that I used as a light table. The invisible card said something like see everything as if it were the first time . I got up thinking about that phrase and it was the conversation topic of the breakfast. Could Bangladesh surprise us? Or would it be just another extension of India in a more Islamic style?

Anxious to see one of the most chaotic capitals in the world, we left the homestay. It was enough to walk two hundred meters so that the landscape changes completely. We did not have a very clear plan where to go or how. We also did not have advice or information to see Dhaka. No traveler comes here and the last travel guide was published long back.

We knew we wanted to go to the old part of the city where are the markets, bazaars and the Buriganga river. Referring to that area as Old Dhaka was our first mistake. We had no idea on how to reach there. Some said it was better to take a green taxi that works with CNG or the colorful rickshaw. Finally, a young man seemed to understand us and told us to take the bus.

The traffic signal, which is not a traffic light but a policeman with a green cane, controlled the traffic and the buses passed again. Without stopping altogether, they signaled us to go up. But they did not know where we wanted to go! One of those at the bus stop signaled that he was going. We went up and once again, the eyes focused on us. The buses are metal cans with broken glass. This part of the world lives in another time, but still and all things work.

We had to do about ten kilometers, half an hour or so, or that was in Google Maps. It took two hours. Those who surveyed the map of Dhaka did not come to the city. Transit was impossible. It's not even that there was a lot of traffic or a traffic jam. Nothing of that. It was crashing constantly. Four times we hit the front one, and three hit us sideways.

A young man, a little younger than us sat next to us, and asked us where we were going. He said we should go down and beckoned to follow him. Following him seemed to be the only opportunity to reach the old part of the city and see the river, an arm of the Ganges.

We start to walk. Crossing the streets every time was more risky. Here was no longer the police with the green stick that regulated a bit of chaos. Closing our eyes, we crossed almost running and dodging all kinds of transportation. We see carts with rice bags, wheelbarrows for clothes and metal cages hooked to a bicycle for children who go to school.

Meanwhile, our tour guide continued to lead us through more and more alleys. He did not speak much, except asking us if we wanted to eat. We crossed a bridge under which we see a little shade of horses, goats and workers. We cross mosques and many people.

Twenty minutes passed and we continued crossing the city on foot, entering each time in narrower streets. Are we afraid? Incredibly not. A stranger was driving us through unthinkable places in a chaotic city but we were not afraid. And if we had it, we could not do much either. Run? We did not even know where. Shout? Nobody was going to listen to us or understand.

We stop for lunch. We stop to buy water and continue. The boy was increasingly in a hurry and walked faster. Finally the smell announced that we were close. There are instants of surprise that it is hard to describe. One was to climb the Great Wall of China and reach its full extent at a first glance, another was this to reach the Buriganga River in the heart of Dhaka.

The river was black, with thick and smelly waters and on it and on its shores a whole world lived. We see small rusty wooden boats carrying more than fifty standing passengers and goats. People carry fruits on their heads. Some sell chicken biryani. We see people attending the mosque call, veiled women, and all looking at us. Every free square meter soon occupied itself. There was no place to stand watching everything that happened.

The boy said goodbye and asked for our postal address. We told him that it was easier to maintain contact through Facebook or by mail but he looked at us strangely. He perhaps did not know what we were talking about. We begin to walk aimlessly. We had no idea how to return. We grab an alley, then another.

Each person we asked sent us in a different direction. We crossed a market of watermelons and one of Muslim women in black veils. We walked without senses. Finally, when we seemed to have found the path that brought us to the point where we had come down, we began to hear several whistles behind us. It was the police.

Who told us to visit Bangladesh? Why did not we do as 99.9% of the travelers who travel Asia does without entering this country? Was not a Discovery Channel documentary enough? With all that hubbub of thoughts we were still looking for the bus stop.

A man with an orange beard and no less than seventy years grabs us by the shoulder and asks us our name. He smiles, revealing the empty space between his red and rotten teeth. With an expression of joy he thanks us for visiting his country. And there we realized that yes, it is worthwhile to be that 0.01% that visits the country beyond the comfortable conditions.

We continue walking until we reach Star Mosque also called Sitara Mosque, one of the main tourist attractions. It is very nice from the outside, but we could not enter since it was closed and the caretaker never showed up.

So we went to the Pink Palace or Ahsan Manzil. To get here we had to cross much of Old Dhaka where its streets become increasingly chaotic, appreciating the butcher shops that hang their merchandise on the street leaving it exposed to the sun, smog and dust. We cannot enter with bags or cameras.

Upon entering, we see little, not because the exhibitions are scarce, but because the light was cut off, an almost daily problem in the country. Using a flashlight, we can see the different objects that belonged to the palace. It was built in 1872. A cyclone destroyed it in large part.

Five minutes from here is Hindu Street, which with its Hindu Santeria is one of the most colorful of Old Dhaka. Following this area full of attractions we visited the Armenian church. It is closed,.

From here we walk the long stretch that separates us from the Lalbagh Fort, on the other side of the city. This fort is the image of many tourist brochures, and judging by the photos, it seemed to have an air of the Taj Mahal.

Four buildings are located in the complex. There is a mausoleum with several tombs with restricted access. The two-story audience room contain a small museum of the Mughals, an old hammam (bath house) and, of course, a mosque. The gardens are very well maintained, and it seems to be the place chosen by the young Bengali couples to escape from the looks of mullahs.

At night we dined in a restaurant.

2 Days in Dhaka

We take advantage of the hours before taking the steamer to visit one of the obligatory points of the city: the Liberation War Museum. This museum shows a complete explanation about the history of Bangladesh after the separation from Pakistan. On the ground floor it starts with the Indian independence movement.

Most of the exhibition is dedicated to dealing with the historical event of the linguistic movement, in which the Bengali was asked to be recognized as an official language. It was a movement that would lead to war of the independence. Several showcases with human bones represent the genocide carried out by the Pakistani army against the Bengali people. At the end of the tour there is a souvenir shop.

Following the advice of the locals we took a bus to Shahbagh to visit the Aziz Market. It apparently has the best material to take a souvenir of the country. There are t-shirts with very good designs, mini rickshaws, books, crafts and other very good trinkets. We walk to the Bongo Bazar, a place where they supposedly sell second-hand branded clothes. The only thing in the market were crap, but we were able to take good pictures of the traffic chaos in the city from the second floor of the market.

At the end of our shopping trip we take a rickshaw from the hotel to the Sadarghat boat terminal on the banks of the Buriganga river. From there we will embark on the steamer. When we arrive they want to charge us more. In the negotiation a huge circle of people formed around us to see what happened to the tourists. Like other times, a mediator appeared from the crowd.

The platforms are a chaos of people, boats, merchandise, passengers, and vendors. They inform us that the ship will arrive in half an hour. We sit on the floor to wait and we are surrounded by a very large number of onlookers. We knew about this particularity of the people.

Finally the ship arrives and we say goodbye to our fan club. This ship was built in 1928 and since then, whole or in pieces, it continues to fulfill its vital function. As soon as we enter, an employee, without even seeing our ticket, takes us to our cabin. Upon entering we received a pleasant surprise. We assumed that there was an error since we had booked second class and this seemed first. We show him the ticket and he confirms that this is our cabin. There are comfortable beds, windows and a balcony to enjoy the beautiful sunset. The ship departs at 6:30 pm from Dhaka for Hulahat.

In the night the staff tried to open the door for us, struggling insistently to see if everything was fine after the torrential rain.

Day 3 - Khulna

We have breakfast on the starboard overlooking the river. Being a network of narrow channels it allows us to see the small rural villages on the shore. We see fishing boats that swing with the waves that form from our boat

Upon returning to the cabin a boat staff came to visit us. True to Bengali customs, he invited us to sit in our bed and stayed for a long time. He asks us if we had read read Lajja, the book by Taslima Nasrin. Everyone who passed by our cabin looked through our window, and even stayed a while.

After arriving at Hularhat we take a auto rickshaw to the terminal where we take the bus to Khulna. After around one hour we arrive at the Sonadanga station in Khulna, from where a rickshaw takes us to the hotel. The double room with bathroom is a gift, and as always, everyone is very happy to see us.

We take a walk through the lively streets of Khulna with much commercial activity divided by areas. There are not many cars. The traffic is made up of people, rickshaws and bicycles mainly. A good time of the afternoon was spent with a temporary guide. He accompany us and invite us to drink something.

After having lunch we went to the Sonadanga bus station, where we took the bus that will take us to Bagerhat.

The journey lasts 45 minutes and leaves us right at the door of the second World Heritage Site that we will visit on our trip. We are at the Shait Gumbad mosque, better known as the sixty dome mosque (although it actually has 77). Being in Bangladesh, we can say that the mosque has great architectural appeal. Inside it is almost empty, except for some carpets arranged for prayer. Luckily, it is not necessary to cover our head when entering because the heat and humidity were unbearable.

In front of this one is the Singar mosque, of the same architectural style as the previous one but with only one dome. Here there seems to be a congregation of Muslims who are very enthusiastic about our request to photograph them.

We try to look for the Bibi Begni mosque. But as it has been happening to us since we arrived in the country, every time we ask for a place people do not know where they are or they indicate us somewhere else. After much searching we found it. In itself it was the same construction as the previous mosque, but a little more hidden. This was one of the cases where the journey is better than the attraction itself. On the way we passed several rural houses where the kids came to meet us and ask us to take pictures of them.

From here we walk to the grave of Khan Jahan Ali, where supposedly there is a pond with crocodiles that we could not see. This local idol (patron saint of the area) was the founder of the city, and who ordered the construction of most of the buildings we see today. Near the tomb is also the Nine Dome Mosque. More domes, or less domes, they are all very similar.

To return to Khulna we take a bus from the main street near the tomb. On the return trip we noticed another of the classic customs of the average Bengali man. Wherever we are, but mainly in public transport, there will always be arguments and fights. The situation we always notice is the following. The bus brakes everywhere, where people come to ask, to sell cucumber, peanuts, ice cream, and the raffles in the name of Allah. Everyone gets in, gesticulates, screams, and then gets off. The trip continues as if nothing had happened, until the next stop, where the same sequence awaits us.

When arriving at Khulna, in the terminal we see several groups around some tables, all play the carrom. It is a local pastime with rules of billiards, but using plastic discs that slide by the board instead of balls.

After dinner, we take a faluda from the sweet shop.

Day 4 - Sundarbans

We managed to find us a bus for Mongla then a boat and a crew for excursion on the waters of the Sundarbans! To get on the boat, we have to borrow some kind of scaffolding. To accompany us there is a guide. We leave the industrial port of Mongla and we cross many boats, from the big ship to the frail boat. Some are so loaded that they seem to be on the verge of sinking.

The further we go in the Sundarbans, the more we borrow the narrow arms of the Ganges, we only cross canoes. We go down to earth to discover life in the Sundarbans, in villages built on the mud. The houses are built at the edge of rice fields. The border between land and water is not always obvious. I am careful not to walk in the deep puddles.

We cross the path of children playing or returning from school. We are invited to enter a dozen houses, welcomed by large families who always offer us to drink and eat. After long hours of peaceful navigation, we arrive at a reserve where we meet a ranger armed with a rifle. Our guide asks him to escort us for a small safari in the jungle.

We leave on bridges crossing the swamp forest. We descend bridges and sink into the mangrove, barefoot in the mud. Our feet are surrounded by families of tiny crabs. Around us, we find a clear trace of tiger in the mud. The ranger explains to me that we are not armed enough to get off the bridges and that it is extremely dangerous.

We leave with our feet full of mud. The guard tells me the day he had to tie a cow to a tree to attract the tiger, in order to satisfy the reporters of a big magazine who came to photograph it. We do not see the tiger but a crocodile, monkeys, deer and lush vegetation. I find sensations that remind me of my trip to Southern Africa.

During the navigation hours, we watch the scenery scroll. Back on the boat, we dine our curry of fish and shellfish with a beautiful sunset.

We return towards Mongla. We said goodbye to our crew.

Day 5 - Barisal

Again the almost deserted streets receive us, although the rickshaw drivers always get up early. The bus to Barisal leaves at 7:00. Along a 4 hours trip, we cross the northern part of the mouths of the Ganges River of the Khulna and Barisal divisions. Many rivers cross the road and even the bus climbs on a platform to reach the other shore. The good news is that when we arrive in Barisal, it leaves us in the city and not in the station that force us to take a rickshaw.

In Barisal we stayed in the hotel in a double room with private bathroom (of the most decent ones that we have stayed). Barisal does not have much to see. Although we could have looked a little more, the heat and fatigue made us only have our time to resolve the issue of tomorrow's journey.

Simply looking for rice and fish for lunch we see ourselves in the same dilemma as always. We follow imprecise indications that only lead us to walk around the city. The most complicated thing in Bangladesh is what seems simpler.

As we understood, in Barisal they specialize in red tea, a change to the ever present chai. We see a little fellow that does not stop selling, where some take what we suppose we are looking for. We take these delicious infusions with lime juice.

Day 6 - Chittagong

At 7:00 we take the boat from Moju Chowdhury Hat with the intention of reaching Chittagong. It is important to arrive early to be able to get seats on the boat. We travel in the cheapest class for 4 hours.

The boat is quite small and the journey takes place in total tranquility until we reach our destination, where everyone desperately descends and many others go up. Once we arrived at this intermediate town with a complicated name, we bought the bus ticket to Chittagong. As soon as I got off the boat, the bus was waiting a few meters away. Unforeseen events are always the order of the day and the trip ends up doubling their delay.

When we arrived in Chittagong the second largest city in the country, we took a rickshaw to the hotel. We would not stay here, since it exceeds our budget, but just by crossing the street another hotel offers us a double room with TV and private bathroom.

As in so many other opportunities, when going out to dinner, a local comes over and invites us to a restaurant. Here despite our insistence to pay the bill, there is no case that they accept this offense.

One of our favorite activities in this country is to enjoy its sweet pineapples, which are sold in traveling carts. So we bought one and we go to rest at the hotel.

Day 7 - Bandarban

In our case Chittagong was another one of the places of passage to reach the distant Bandarban. We took a rickshaw to the Bardarhat station, although the only way to make us understand was by asking for Bandarban bus station, and that will be the next destination. When arriving at the station it seems that we were in India. Only 10 minutes passed and we were already on the road. On the route, the bus uses even a ferry to cross the river Sangu.

In Bandarban searching for the hotel was a rather difficult task. It is true that the first I asked gave me a room but it was not worth what he asked for. And the owners were not friendly so I was in no hurry as I began to ask in almost every hotel I saw.

That translated into one that told me it was full and five I directly said no. Knowing there was at least one other who accepted me was not really worried but I could not (now) understand that problem was with foreigners in general or a solo traveler.

I finally settled for the hotel in Bandarban. It was the hotel had recommended on the internet but initially, It made me discard it for the price. Although as it was prices are even written in the reception. I told the manager that the price was too high for me.

Then he asked me what I was willing to pay and told him what I paid in Rangamati. As I supposed I could not get out much for the price of the room but was offered for 700 tk and I did not hesitate. They were more than 200 tk as against the first hotel but this was much better.

That day I did not do much. After food at a restaurant with an exorbitant price, I feel that I could not do anything about it. I went to make my photos from the bridge into the city to Sangu river. It was a very nice view. In addition, over the bridge, there were signs with the names and details of the different tribal groups living in the area. Marma, Khumi, Lushai, Kheyang, Bengali, Bawm, Mro, Tanchangya, Pangkhua, Tripura, and Chak.

The next day I went by bus to the Shailo Propat waterfall. As I had said, and I imagined no trace of the waterfall because it hardly rains at this time. But the area is also inhabited by the tribal group Bawm so I went also to see them. At the entrance of the waterfall in Bawm there are women selling crafts and handkerchiefs.

The way back I started to leisurely walk through the villages. They are actually a few houses on either side of the road. All or almost all were made of bamboo, wooden sticks, metal and straw. At the entrance to each village there is an information sign with its name, and the group living, how many men and women live there, altitude and what they do.

When I arrived at a checkpoint I decided to stay there to wait for a bus. I saw there were two policemen. One was very curious and was too confident for my taste. But seeing that any bus did not pass after a while, he stopped a car and asked me if they could take me back to Bandarban. And so was the last part of the journey with a friendly but rash driver. It was a relief to arrive.

From there I went for a walk to the Buddhist Buddha Dhatu Jadi temple or there also known as the Golden Temple, about 5 km from Bandarban. As I had already seen enough pagodas, I did not think it was a surprise but it was quite nice as there was a high view of the surroundings. Here also I took a free round of photos.

When I was down, came a foreigner! And there I found myself asking how he was and where he was staying. I suddenly felt like a Bangladeshi against a foreigner haha. I discovered that I really wanted to talk to another foreigner. So I met a little later to his "guide" to spend the rest of the day and the next two days.

When we got off the temple I asked them to see if I could share with them the CNG back to Bandarban and there we went all three.

On the way, I was invited to go with them to the viewpoint of Nilachol. It is located on top of a hill and there are nice views all around.

On the way back I was invited to his hotel and I finally ended up staying there until 10 pm. From the terrace of the room we saw a nice view of a pond and then lying on the big lawn there outside and along with the hotel owner, we drink beer, wine until dinner.

Then the very friendly owner of the hotel, took me to my hotel with his motorcycle. What a day it had been!

Day 8 - Cox's Bazar

This morning I catch the bus to Cox's Bazar. As I sat waiting on a sofa in the hotel, one of the staff came out with my bus ticket. Inside the bus, the staff was not so attentive and when I asked where I could leave my big backpack, they gave me no choice but to keep below my feet.

Cox's Bazar is the most spectacular attraction of the country according to its inhabitants. Nobody can leave Bangladesh without visiting Cox's Bazar, one of the natural wonders of the world. Although there is no official title that endorses it, and we do not even know much about this place in the world. What is certain is that, pretty or not, it's the longest unbroken sandy beach in the world.

Do we get to Koh Phi Phi? Gold Coast? Cancun? No, but the hotel boom is striking in Bangladesh. When we get off, luckily far from the station and near the beach, we just ask at two hotels and we have chosen where to stay.

Cheaper than we expected, the hotel room is the best we have stayed in the country, located right next to the Ziruk Market. The streets near the hotel are very quiet, but the insistent auto rickshaw remind us a little (only a little) of the days in India.

The Ziruk Market has the classic souvenirs of any beach destination, made with snails. But we do not come for the market, but the beach, and with the low sun we went for a walk.

If this is one of the natural wonders of the world, then how many beaches could be. It's long, but unless one walks it from end to end, it does not change anything. What does have to its favor is the width and the constant shade without the need of an umbrella thanks to the dense trees. Despite being on the beach, the women do not even think of showing a little more than normal, not even uncovering their face. While men walk mostly with the classic Bollywood style shirt, Texan jeans and shoes. That's right, that's the Bengali-style beach attire.

We visit the Aggameda Khyang Buddhist monastery. To get there we pass through the non-tourist area of ​​the city, the other side of Cox's Bazar. As soon as we approach the door of the monastery, the caretaker of the place is very enthusiastic and begins to guide us. In the temple live many Burmese refugees who escaped the dictatorship of their country.

On the way back we passed through the lively market of vegetables, chicken and fish. Here once again we met with the happy reception of the people who asked us to photograph them. Another market in the city is of dry fish. It is quite smaller than the previous one, but much more smelly.

The beach closest to the hotel is not as busy as others, making the attention received is not as much as we expected.

Bangladesh has me in love! And not precisely because of its green landscape, its repetitive food or its few monuments. In reality, Bangladesh does not have much appeal in that sense, although it does not stop being worthwhile. But the real treasure of this country is its people, the one that never ceases to amaze me for how kind they can become.

Day 9 - Comilla

We said goodbye to the hotel staff, who asked us to take a picture and we go on a rickshaw to the place where the buses leave for Chittagong. We take the next one to leave for 5 hours of travel.

When we arrived in the city of Chittagong it was very difficult for us to find a rickshaw that would take us to the center. Seeing our situation, a policeman comes to talk to us. As always when we try to ask something, first we have to answer the classic questions. When he finally lets us talk we explain what was happening, asking him if he could act as an intermediary between us and a driver so that he would charge us the fair price. As his shift was over, he said that he would come with us, and on the way he invited us to have lunch at his house.

Surely in another country we would not have accepted this type of invitation, except coming from a policeman, but here we can see the good intentions of the people. After lunch he accompanied us in rickshaw to the station.

We travel by train to Comilla. The first class does not have anything special. The seats are comfortable with a shared table with another seat located opposite. After a while, the others try to speak to us and the main theme is religion, the one they like so much. But this time we did not give the answer that we usually gave so as not to cause a commotion and we tried to explain that we do not want to talk about religion. They commented among themselves. They laughed and returned on the same subject several times, believing we had misunderstood.

After assimilating the event they continued with other topics such as marriage, customs, and food. Despite not being able to believe most of our sincere answers, at no time was anyone taking it wrong. Everyone laughed and commented. And so the trip was spent.

Upon arrival in Comilla, we take the rickshaw from the station to the hotel. The rickshaws give color to the streets. We leave things and

At night, trying to sleep, an intense smell complicates our sleep. We tried to ignore it, but each time it became stronger. We turn on the light and look for the room where the smell originates. We find a mouse in a state of putrefaction under the bed. We go to the reception and explain the situation. They come to clean the room. They take out with a small stick and throw it in the corridor.

Day 10 - Sreemangal

And now, we head north to discover Sreemangal, a green area of ​​Maulvibazar District, in Sylhet Division. To get to the green lands of the country, we take the train. As usual, we cause small gatherings on the docks because passers-by tend to stop on our way.

At the Station, we have several guardian angels. Men who come to announce that they will help us find our train, who want to carry our bag or just wish us a good trip. nd then, there are many street children who play on the rails, have fun riding on the roof of trains or other activities very suitable for their age.

I always have four or five pairs of eyes on me, on the platform or on the train. Through the window the show is hardly believable. There is life on the rails! We pass the route to respond to the smiles and questions of other passengers. Street vendors get on the train to sell hot tea and peanuts.

During the trip, there is always someone to talk to me. When I smoke a cigarette at the door, I attract all eyes and causes many reflections, astonished and amused but benevolent. And the further we go, the more we discover a green and promising landscape towards the plantations of Srimangal.

Once there, we find a tuk-tuk to take us to our cottage, booked the day before by phone. When we arrive on the scene, we are warmly welcomed by a young man. And we are delighted to see that we have a braided bamboo hut, by a stream and in the middle of a tropical garden, along a rather peaceful road. I do not I have no picture.

We ride our bicycles to cycle on the surrounding trails, after swallowing chapatis with spicy vegetables for lunch. We cross fields of tea, pineapple and banana plantations. We walk full on a postcard, rice fields and hills as far as the eye can see. We pass in front of several factories of tea and have the right to many explanations on the part of the workers.

We cross several small villages where we receive an extraordinary welcome, as always in the country. We are invited and questioned by many people and receive smiles from everyone who crosses our path. We also borrow rare desert trails. The children of the villages run behind our bike. We slow down and they eventually catch up with us. But as soon as we leave, they resume their race!

To end the day, our friend who works as a guide for our cottage, offers us a small outing on Lake Madhabpur, to observe the traditional fishermen. We board a canoe just before the sun goes down. We approach the fishermen and watch them silently install their nets. We are welcomed with open arms, literally, by the fishermen of the lake.

And then, we see the lake gradually change color with the sunset. We remain a moment to see the lake and its fishermen in a semi-darkness before wishing them good night.

Day 11 - Lawachara National Park

Our host offers a day of walks at his side. Our tuk-tuk takes us to the rainforests of Lawachara National Park. We quickly find ourselves between creepers and giant bamboos in the jungle where live many species of colorful spiders. And since I wear flip flops, my feet are quickly covered with leeches! We remove them delicately.

We walk two hours in the lush nature. We still meet spiders but also some families of monkeys and wonderful butterflies. We enter Punje, a tribal village. In the middle of banana trees, areca trees, guavas or giant pomelos, the atmosphere pleases me. The tribe living here is called Lawachara Khasia.

Life is beautiful to watch. The batik that dry in the sun and the bright paintings on the walls giving wonderful colors to the place. We meet some villagers who go about their business while others sit in the shade. We meet a woman who modestly tells me to be the first female guide of the country.

Then, we pass a house in which two women work who invite me to try their weaving machine. It's super hard. I'm so bad that women laugh at me! At night, we invite ourselves to this beautiful fish market in the Kamalganj region but I lost the exact name of the place. There is fresh fish but mostly dried. But also fruits, vegetables and condiments. Our presence intrigues sellers.

We spent only one hour walking in Srimangal. The city itself is rather small and colorful. The rickshaw explodes in the streets. The electric wires get tangled up everywhere and the sun warms the corrugated iron constructions. We eat nans and a delicious shish kebab.

Before leaving Srimangal, we take a break at a tea cabin, the presumed inventor of seven-color tea! It is a hot drink known in Bangladesh because it has the distinction of having seven layers, each with a different dose of sugar and spices. Above all it was so sweet that I had a hard time appreciating. But the atmosphere was good. At 7:00 the bus leaves via Dhaka. The trip was like in so many other occasions that we used this medium in the region. Even though we did not see the route, the heart was paralyzed more than once. The unbridled honking helps to exaggerate the situation. Added to that the speed and maneuvers at times are those of an F-1 race.

Day 12 - Paharpur

To stay with a sweet memory of Bangladesh, we give ourselves a bellyful of scrumptious shondesh and mishti doi in breakfast.

Obviously, when we arrived in Paharpur after passing Bogra we did not find the archaeological site so easily, but we would have to take a third transport. After negotiations with the cycles, we agree with one of them to take us. When we were on the way we see the ruins, but it's still long to leave us at the door of a museum. We try to explain that our intention is to visit the ruins, since later, if we have time, we would go to the museum.

Seeming to have understood leads us back to the place of departure. We tried to explain once again that we wanted to go to the ruins, making clear gestures (or at least clear to us), but there is no way to make us understand. The weather becomes tense and the driver starts to get angry. We try to calm the mood until a kid comes out of a tourist car to help us.

We explain where we want to go. He asks his driver and he shows him the way. The driver follows the indicated path, but each time we moved farther, we do not know where he wanted to take us, but surely not to the ruins. The driver refused to take us until someone could explain that the entrance to the ruins was for that museum that we had gone in the first instance. So we go back to the museum.

The entrance to the Paharpur ruins is quite expensive for Bangladesh prices. During our visit, the driver did not take off, just in case we were not in the place we wanted again.

These ruins are one of the three World Heritage Sites that Bangladesh has, but they are not of great appeal. It was the largest Buddhist monastery to the south of the Himalayas. Its main stupa, Somapuri Vihara, occupied 11 hectares, but only one 20 m dome remained standing. It is believed to contain the remains of holy monks who lived here.

In the museum there are bas-reliefs, ornaments and artifacts of daily use that were found in the excavations. At the end of the route we return to the starting point.

In the end, the ruins were not the great attraction of the day, but the whole ride in public transport, sharing the trip with the astonished looks of the locals, entering the rural Bangladesh with its durian giant trees and the tragicomic situation of the cycle, made the day an unforgettable experience.

From here we take a bus to Jaipurhat abd then to Pargram. Once in Pargram we took a cycle rickshaw from the bus station to our hotel, which as usual tried to charge us more when we arrived. It seems to be the only hotel that accepts tourists within our backpacker budget.

The long journey had consequences on our appetite. We walked down the street until we entered a place tempted by the smell. The place is full. The tempting dish is called Mughlai Paratha and it comes filled with egg and vegetables, accompanied by cucumber, a thick curry and sauce. We followed with exquisite cha and Mishti doi.

We walk through the main streets full of food stalls until we find the internet. After the session, the young man who attends takes several photos with us.

Backpacking Trip Through Bangladesh

Day 13 - Burimari

We had to decide on whether to India through the border near Malda after passing through Rajshahi or the border near Siliguri after passing through Burimari. At 7:30 we left towards Siliguri by bus. We come down at Burimari Market. We then head to Changrabanda, starting to say goodbye to Bangladesh.

The Route 66 in Missouri, more than 480 kilometers long has made us discover a multitude of scenarios and icons of the Old Route 66. In particular, I was struck by its streets made of climbs and descents surrounded by greenery.

After Illinois, the land of Lincoln, we enter Missouri. The first stop on Route 66 was the old Chain of Rocks Bridge that separates the states of Illinois and Missouri. When we get to St Louis the road is divided into two. If you do not bring the map it can be complicated, but with the app, there is no problem.

St Louis is the largest city between Chicago and Los Angeles that Route 66 passes through. It has some interesting things to see, including a large arch along the Mississippi River that they say is the tallest landmark in the United States. But after the day before we did not arrive on time for the last stops, we did not want to waste much time in the city. We just crossed it with the car.

This night by car was quieter than the first, and the parking of the hotel was really silent. It rained a lot around midnight, with thunder and lightning, and we inside our car enjoy the pleasant sound of the rain. However, it is hot, both in the day and night. The cold of Chicago is an old memory. In the car we always have the air conditioning turned on, in tune with the Americans who shoot it in thrall even in churches.

St Louis is an independent city of Missouri, the state in which the ice cream cone was invented, the cold tea, the 7-up (the competitor of Sprite) and especially the peanut butter. It is the place where per capita consumption of BBQ sauce is higher than in any other American city. So yes, in St Louis, it's a place to stop and eat well and a lot.

As soon as I arrived, I decided to go and eat away from BBQs and places where they could serve ribs or meat in general, and I chose a Vietnamese restaurant. It is very good and really Vietnamese, as the smell of the pho almost touched me and the bill was on the same wavelength. It was cheap and good.

But the dinner was actually a preparation for the grand finale of the day. St Louis is a city in which to stop, for a series of reasons that could be almost infinite, but decisively captained by one. It is the frozen custard, an ice cream (it is not really ice cream, it is heavier). Indeed it is divine.

I opted for butterscotch with pieces of pecans. They give it to us in a glass of the drink, even more, creamy than when we make the pasta with a little soft ice cream. It was creamy, sweet, thick. We tried another one. And I would have spent the evening there. It was so good and creamy that I still dream in many nights.

Day 1 - St Louis

In the morning, we chose to make a stop at the Zoo as it is free. The zoo is beautiful and the animals seem really well kept. The zoo is huge in itself and is part of a gigantic and very rich park called Forest Park. It, just to be clear, is bigger than Central Park. It is maintained great.

But since we had a single day to visit the city we spent very little time at the park. We got back in the car decided to wander around the city and breathe at least a little pleasant air of an American city. Because this is what I really liked about the city as it still has much of that country atmosphere.

We move around residential neighborhoods and decide to do two unusual stages. We stop to eat a pizza in one of the famous chain known for the thin crust pizza, typical of the city. So, I'm not Neapolitan and so I know pizza in terms of a Nordic person who would eat this dish for breakfast lunch and dinner for the rest of his days.

But this is not pizza. It is precisely the farthest from the Italian dish. Besides the fact that the cheese sticks violently to the teeth and needs a chisel to remove it. The pasta base is, in reality, only a support for an excessive load of heavy condiments.

We take back the car and take a ride on the Hill, the hill reserved for the Little Italy of the city. With an extra dose of onion not required we turned the car to one of the must-see attractions for beer lovers and not the Budweiser factory.

The Anheuser-Busch is a gigantic, huge, incredible machine that works in a continuous cycle. We go in and they give us the ticket of the color of the tour. They call us and take you into the stables of the horses, ride in the factory, and show a documentary. In a continuous cycle, the girls explain to us everything and take us where we can choose which beer to taste.

In the afternoon we visit the symbol of the city to the Gateway Arch. Also called Gateway to the West, it is the highest monument in the northern hemisphere. In my eyes, it is the most amazing arch that it was built between 1963 and 1965, although it seems very modern.

We stay down and look at it from below and imagine how nice it would be to get up and see everything from above. There is the ticket to go up combined with a film show about Lewis & Clark, the two famous explorers or a very obscure documentary (obviously shot in the '60s) on the step by step construction of this splendid structure.

We then waited around the Visitor Center museum, which was very large but not big enough to occupy a full hour. And then, very calmly we lined up for the climb in the timetable written on the ticket. From the entrance to the visitor center at the moment when we put our backs into the gondola that leads to the top, exactly two very long hours have passed.

We line up in four on a step and open the doors of these tiny iron cages (obviously without windows) and we have to get inside. I understand what my duvet feels when at all costs I try to get it in the washing machine. And then the doors are closed in a sinister way, with a deafening clang! We start the climb with three long minutes of chilling noise.

Obviously being a construction of 1965, at the time, they did not have great technologies. The most practical thing was, obviously, a zipper and a chain (like a bicycle to be clear). We get up and there are these little windows, from which we can see very little. People take selfies with enthusiasm and I wonder if they will be satisfied with this wall in the background.

We have caught a decent sunset and, let's face it, the view on the city is amazing. I had the distinct feeling that we could have used the time in quite another way.

We checked in at a very bad Motel. The prices in the city were quite high.

Missouri travel images

Day 2 - Springfield

Leaving St. Louis, the city between two states after about 50 kilometers we get to Eureka and the first roadside attraction along Route 66. We see Route 66 State Park, a park of over 400 acres which includes a stretch of the original Route 66 and the old bridge over the Meramec River. Here an old hotel from 1935 is converted into a museum where we could see some original neons of the Route.

The history of the city where the museum is located, Times Beach, does not leave anyone indifferent. It is a type of holiday city that in 1983 suffered one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in the United States. In the App, it marks it as the ghost town but nothing remains of it since it had to be all incinerated.

They just left this building that they turned into a museum of Route 66. Inside it also explains everything that happened in Times Beach. We left our mark in the signature book and on the map.

Another 25 kilometers to the west we arrive at Pacific, a country so named in honor of the Pacific Railroad. Just 8 km after Pacific we arrive at Gray Summit, where it is worth stopping for at least one reason in particular. We enter the Shaw Nature Reserve, once the land of the Arapaho Indian tribes. Today it is a beautiful botanical garden that preserves the most beautiful species of plants and flowers of Missouri.

Speaking of Native Americans, shortly after Gray Summit, at Villa Ridge, we see the Indian Harvest Trading Post! These are tepee shops, which also has an admission ticket reselling only fake products, made in China or Mexico.

After Villa Ridge, we continue on Route 66 in Missouri. We stop at the St. Clair Historical Museum with real Indian artifacts. At 15 km from St. Clair we get to one of the stops I loved most of Stanton.

After passing Sullivan we arrive at Bourbon, a town that owes its name to the liquor not because it was produced here. Around 1850 the railway workers began to call the city with this name, thanks to the Bourbon barrels for sale in the only General Store of the country. We see the Circle Inn Malt Shop and then continue to Cuba, where we stop to eat.

We find her the best place to eat along Route 66. It is not a historic place on Route 66 but is recommended in all the guides we read because it is really good and quaint. We enter a log cabin and order typical Ozark dishes. It is as well as cheap (for American prices).

After lunch, we take a look also at the typical Wagon Wheel Motel right next to the restaurant. We also see the colorful murals dedicated to Route 66 around the town before moving to Rosati, the Little Italy of Route 66. It is named so because a group of Italian immigrants settled there. They began to live cultivating grapes, used for grape juice and wine, which still makes the town famous.

With a full stomach after turning around to see the murals of the town we went to Fanning. It is famous for having the largest rocker in the world (Red Rocket). We took the obligatory photo. We still had a very high temperature so the stop was pretty fast. It is located next to a souvenir shop on Route 66, Fanning Outpost General Store.

We continue to St. James, where we relax in the Meramec Spring State Park. We see the historic Finn's Motel, before arriving, about 18 km after St. James, in Rolla, the first town that managed to take me a real jump in the 60s. We see the downtown, the Mule Trading Post, and the vintage Martin Springs Drive store.

40 km to the west we arrive at Jerome, where we stop for a look at the Larry Baggett's Trail of Tears Memorial. It is a monument dedicated to the victims of the Trail of Tears or the American Indians who were forced to leave their lands to take refuge in Oklahoma. Many lost their lives along the way and for this, they called that road Trail of Tears.

We pass Devil's Elbow, Lebanon and finally get to Springfield, the birthplace of Route 66. It is so called because it was decided here to give the number 66, because it sounded good, the road that connected Chicago to Los Angeles.

We stop to eat at a restaurant with big sandwiches! The food is delicious, and the portions are huge! The waiters, in fact, pass between the tables to throw literally panini or serve okra, molasses for bread and a bunch of other things!

We arrive at Carthage, a town that dates back to the era of secession with a rather insignificant castle in the middle. There is a nice bar with memories of those who passed along the Route 66. From Carthage, we chose to take a detour to Kansas City that we really did not want to miss.

Kansas City is mostly in Missouri, even if one piece is in Kansas. And starting with it all looks very romantic to me. It makes me think of two people who find a common meeting point, embrace there in the middle, without discussing. Yes, I have a beautiful memory of Kansas City. We stayed at a motel for the night. We dined what we had left over from the midday meal and went early to sleep.

Day 3 - Kansas City

We left for the city satisfied and with the stomach full after breakfast at one of my favorite chains, both for good and plentiful food, and their farm and cultivation policies. We spent the morning at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. We spent a lot of time here and more time than we had planned.

It turned out to be a concentrate of art, to say the least crazy from all parts of the world, all ages, and all historical currents. But what's all that stuff doing there? From Caravaggio to carved wooden shovels brought from China, Cambodian sculptures alternating with photographs or Monet, out in the garden statues of Rodin.

A special mention goes to the gift shop, packed full of so many beautiful minks that I would have bought everything. There is a Van Gogh's face mug which when it gets warmer makes the ear disappear or shaped like a denture. There are the fantastic brochures to take personalized tours inside this huge museum. As a fan I was amazed.

We headed in a hurry to the small and delightful town of Independence, where we wanted to make a stop to visit Harry S. Truman National Historic Site. The scene that was presented was, to say the least surreal. We find a few Indians (from India, not Native Americans). I smile. They smile at me and the conversation should be read with the Raj accent of big bang theory.

Yes, the gag went on for a while. That is, in the suburbs of Kansas City there is a young Indian who firmly supports that this city is the true wonder of the world. We head towards Independence, where we enter the park pass for free for a guided tour of the house of President Harry Truman. He is famous for having replaced the long-lived Roosevelt and for having ordered the first atomic bomb on Japan.

The guided tour was unexpectedly interesting and fun. I mean, I really enjoyed it. The house is pretty, but not great. It is really modest as it seemed he was. We enter the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which to my ignorant opinion competes extensively with the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It is futuristic and beautiful.

Our next stop is the Liberty Memorial. The gigantic obelisk is erected in memory of the soldiers of the World War I to which there is attached a huge museum. We also see the splendid Union Station and its grandiose waiting room.

Instead, the Kansas City river market can be lost, divided between the real market as we understand it and a shop for food. The only good thing was a stall selling exaggerated amounts of blueberries for a few dollars. I've never had so toned legs. From the River City Market, we visit the Arabia steamboat museum. There are the entire contents of a ship that sunk in 1856 and found in 1988. It is interesting to see how everything has been preserved.

As a first stop, after visiting the university, we ran to put the flag at Boulevard Brewery, a giant craft brewery where they are free and guided tours! I must be very sincere as the beer is really super good. I totally fell in love with the lemon and ginger. The others were also of excellent quality.

We had already planned to go in the early afternoon to the famous BBQ reported in any guide as one of the best barbecue joints in the United States. We arrive at this service station, park, and we see a long queue outside the door. This is a clear sign that the place is good. We wait almost an hour. The smell of the BBQ was inebriating.

Finally, we arrive at the cash desk (it's self-service type) and with eyes bigger than the mouth we order a row of ribs with beans. We are people on a diet while traveling and so we also order a sandwich. In hindsight I declare it. I would have waited even four hours to eat that food.

Almost without a doubt, it was the best ribs I have tasted in my life (along with that eaten for breakfast in Texas). Even the BBQ beans were something incredible. The food was really heavy. Let's say as good as it was heavy and it seems incredible but after eating there we went to bed, collapsed. We spend two hours in bed to digest, losing a piece of our plan.

This story was told because it was there, in that BBQ in Kansas City that it was a divorce. And so, from that day, in that service station, I closed my relationship with the Ribs! And I always watch the meat more with suspicion.

Kansas City is really huge and very varied. It is rich in street art and definitely green. Swope Park is twice the size of Central Park in New York, just to understand, as well as have a very busy nightlife. We chose to make an evening stroll in the car and then go to the shopping district. To tell the truth, even given our lack of interest in the subject, it was really nice.